India: Oct 15: More Jaipur (Jantar Mantar and Monkey Temple)

We devoted the day to seeing the last two major sights in Jaipur we wanted to see before needing to board the overnight train to our next destination, Udaipur. These pictures document the day's adventures.

Although this was our third day in Jaipur, I think Jaipur only has about a day and a half of sights. My estimate is, of course, based on my usual speed of exploration in first-world/fully-developed cities (e.g., no need to negotiate for transportation), in weather at reasonable temperatures (i.e., not so hot it makes you want to move slowly), and traveling alone (i.e., I can skip or abbreviate activities that interest me less). Obviously, as these are all counter-factuals, my day-and-a-half estimate really has no basis in fact.

The only sights I didn't get to see during our three days in Jaipur were the forts that overlook the city. I knew J and N have only so much patience for forts, and there were two that we'd run across later in our trip that I wanted to make sure we all had the energy to see.

Also, although we saw it as we drove by, I never got to photograph the city center and its pleasing architecture.

When we got up and left the hotel in the morning, we found out one rickshaw driver waited outside our hotel for two hours the previous night and one hour that morning. We didn't feel very guilty about it because we explicitly told him not to wait.

For breakfast, we headed to Lassiwalla. Jaipur is famous for lassis, and Lassiwalla is the most famous place for them in Jaipur. Although I usually don't bother ordering lassis (a yogurt drink), this one I really liked. It was creamy, refreshing, and not too sweet. Now I understand J's and N's fondness for the drink. Even they, copious lassi drinkers who ask for half the usual amount of sugar to be added when they order their lassis, approved of this lassi and its sweetness level.

Along with lassis, we grabbed a small snack from a nearby shop.

Next up: Jantar Mantar, a medieval observatory. It was impressive. Although it looked like a skate park, we were intrigued by the numerous devices used to predict star movements and seasons and to keep time. These builders clearly were smart and very careful about angles and shadows and everything. They found multiple ways to keep time. Sometimes they built grids, which looked exactly like graph paper, with a gnomon in the center. Many contraptions had good explanations of how they worked.

After our sweltering exploration of Jantar Mantar, we walked through the bazaar, passed sections for household goods (e.g., paint), jewelry, auto- (well, scooter-) repair, and pharmaceuticals, to the merchant where J and N bought a pile of clothing the previous day. They felt like they didn't get a good deal and wanted to return some of it. After more bargaining, they walked out with fewer items (though not as many fewer as they intended) and more money in their pockets.

We ended up eating lunch at Surya Mahal, a restaurant not in any of our guidebooks. It had a sign indicating it serves Indo-Chinese food; we'd been looking for an opportunity to try Chinese-Indian fusion for a while. The restaurant also serves lots of other types of food such as Italian and burgers. Our meal was definitely a quality one, just going to show that guides list only a random assortment of restaurants, not all worthwhile ones.

A long rickshaw ride later, we arrived at the Galwar Bagh (a.k.a., Monkey Temple), so nicknamed because of all the tame monkeys living nearby. As the pictures show, we passed many monkeys on the hike to the top. We also passed a snake charmer! I think that was the first time I saw one.

Near the top, I ran into someone who recognized me from my internship at Microsoft eight years earlier. He was an intern at the same time. That's some memory for faces! We caught up, reminisced, remarked on the unlikeliness of the coincidence, and wished each other well.

At the top of the hill near the Monkey Temple, I had a humorous exchange with an Indian. He asked, "Where are you from?" I said "California." He said, "You can never leave the Hotel California." I said, "What a great song." We talked a bit more after that. It turned out his family was on vacation for the month.

On the way down the mountain, we (especially N) acquired a fan club of kids. They kept introducing each other, shaking our hands all around, playing rhyming games with our names and theirs, and stealing our (actually empty) water bottles.

After the monkey temple, we needed to get back to the city proper. As rickshaws were hard to come by in the area, we ended up literally shoving ourselves aboard a packed bus. It was amazingly cheap. I thought rickshaws, when properly negotiated, were cheap; this was a fifth of that cost per person. (Actually, I guess that is the same ratio of cost of public transit to taxis in the United States.)

It was quite a claustrophobic trip and a true Indian experience. It's neat that I was taller than almost everyone else--that's not a feeling I get often. It was hard to know when to get off the bus without understanding the signs or knowing any landmarks. Without N's help we would've been lost! Plus, we had trouble getting off and on due to the crowd, and getting off, even when we knew where, wasn't that easy--the bus didn't really stop, it just slowed down a lot.

N said her mother never let her ride the bus growing up.

Interestingly, the bus didn't honk at all.

Eventually we made it downtown and, because we had time to kill before our train, caught a rickshaw to a Cafe Coffee Day, the other coffeehouse in Jaipur. We took the opportunity to use one benefit of a western-style coffeehouse: clean restrooms. We're always on the lookout for those. After eating and drinking, we caught another rickshaw, picked up our bags from the hotel, and continued on the rickshaw to the train station. As we waited, we tried to ignore the smell of the train tracks. Upon boarding, we learned our seats were near a smelly bathroom. :(

Our train was mostly filled with a group of 9th grade girls from Hyderabad on a multi-week field trip. While I pretended to be asleep, N, and to some extent J, acquired quite a fan club. The girls were infatuated with my traveling companions.

Much of the conversation I overheard was funny, including the commands to N: "You studied psychology? Psychoanalyze me." and "Read my face."

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